In this contribution to the “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” series, Deepak Lamba-Nieves shares a noteworthy contact tracing case study from the Puerto Rican mountain town of Villalba. While Puerto Rico has received recent attention for both its severe lockdowns and compliance-averse tourists, Lamba-Nieves describes contact tracing protocols developed at the local level that emphasized qualitative outreach as well as quantitative data collection. Though many contact tracing initiatives and policy discussions during the pandemic have focused on digital mechanisms, he suggests that paying attention to small-scale success stories such as this one offers important lessons for future programs.
Deepak Lamba-Nieves is the research director & Churchill G. Carey, Jr. Chair in Economic Development Research at the Center for a New Economy (CNE). He also teaches at the University of Puerto Rico’s Graduate School of Planning. Lamba-Nieves has been researching Puerto Rico’s socioeconomic prospects and development trajectories for two decades. At present, he is conducting research on postdisaster reconstruction as part of CNE’s Blueprint Initiative, a collective effort that aims to define a path forward for housing and land use in Puerto Rico. His current book project, based on dissertation fieldwork carried out in the Dominican Republic and the United States, examines collective grassroots projects carried out by migrants and their counterparts back home as a window into how community development takes place across borders. Lamba-Nieves was a postdoctoral fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs and completed a PhD in urban and regional studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning.